Tuesday 1st March
At the centre of Beijing is the Forbidden City from where Imperial dynasties have ruled since the 15th century. In front of this is the Tian’an Men Square made as a product of socialism and Chairman Mao. The Square is the world’s largest and is not particularly pretty and is very hard to photograph. It is surrounded by cultural and political institutions as well as being the final resting place of Chairman Mao. At the northern end of the Square is the Meridian Gate which is the traditional entrance to the palaces of the Forbidden City. From the balcony the emperor would review his armies and perform ceremonies marking the start of the new lunar year. Mao proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China on 1st October 1949 from the massive Ming-dynasty gate where his huge portrait still hangs.
Later we visited Wangfuging Dajie which is Beijing’s main shopping street and is filled with department stores and giant malls as well as a night market with open air food stalls, which is actually open virtually 24 hours. Everything that swims, flies or walks appears to be cooked here! To the north is St Joseph’s Church built in 1904. Close by is the Hao Yuan Market which is a China Town within a Chinese town!